When we were kids, the idea of adulthood was so irresistibly delicious that most if not all of the games that we played centered on that magical eventuality—playing house, pretending grown up jobs like cop/doctor/astronaut, racing in our Big Wheels, and dreaming of the day we would be big boys and girls with jobs and cars and overflowing piggy banks.
But looking back, I always remember adults seeming so impossibly boring. They weren’t wowed by anything, weren’t absolutely stoked to wake up at 4:00 on Christmas morning, and had such excruciatingly boring conversations. The only thing that seemed to really generate a visceral reaction was when they would look down at us to exclaim, “Oh look how much you’ve grown!” As if the naturally inescapable process of proliferating cells and stretching bones were some great and impressive thing.
I remember thinking, “When I’m an adult, I’m going to be the most fun and awesome adult ever.”
And then adulthood happened.
I don’t know when or how it happened, but it happened. I’ve become the thing I looked forward to more than anything in the world, and I feel completely short-changed. Something went wrong and the guilty party must be held responsible.
I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the culprits:
1. Everyone wants all of your money.
Making more money does not necessarily mean that you get more money. It just means that more things will find ways to take more of your money and you’re still going to have a mostly empty piggy bank at the end of the day. But it’s OK, because remember Disney World as a kid—the magic and fun that made you feel like the real world just melted away? There is always the magical escape of Disney World. Except, oh wait, Mickey Mouse wants all of your money, too.
2. The DMV.
Everyone inside just reeks of misery. And they all seem to be hoping you drop dead of a heart attack so that they can move one spot closer in line. It smells like anger and bitterness if anger and bitterness had smells.
3. Politics and the media.
Whatever your political ideology, you are being lied to by everyone. Surprised? Of course not. Why? Because you’re smart and have a brain. Congratulations. But as we grow older and become more aware of the red and blue cloud of lies spewing from the television and radio, we develop a sense of cynicism and wariness that can harden over time into a general lack of trust and even dislike of absolutely everyone. Ok, maybe not everyone. But we have certainly become very mistrustful.
4. Traffic tickets.
When you’re a child, cops and robbers is just the best game ever. And then you grow up and you start to feel like the cop is the big mean bully waiting around the corner to steal your lunch money. Really? I didn’t stop for 5 seconds at the stoplight before I made a LEGAL right turn on red, and so now my (definitely not overflowing) piggy bank is $175 lighter?
5. The crushing realization that your parents are actually normal, flawed humans and not superheroes.
The first time you see your parents fight as a kid, it’s like a bad dream. You go in your room, shut the door, play with something, come out later and everything is back to normal. Then you reach a certain age, and one of your parents starts venting to you about the other, and you’re just like…”Whoa, what’s happening here? You guys are supposed to have it all figured out.” This is the moment that you realize adults are just kids who have grown up.
I’ve caught myself on too many occasions looking down on the top of a tiny head and saying, “Oh my Lord look how big he/she has gotten!”
I see the kid looking at me with eyes that say, “Why do they always say that.”
And then I stop and think, “Did I really just say that?”
It’s not that there is anything particularly amazing about the proliferating of cells or the stretching of bones. Instead, I look down on them with a pity and sadness for the eventual loss of their childhood.
The truth is this: Growing up is just one crushing disappointment piled on top of another.
Now, I’m tempted to try to qualify that statement with the standard, “I’m not a pessimist” dislcaimer. But, in truth, I probably am a pessimist. If a glass is half-full, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes along, rips it from your hand, and chugs the rest or nature evaporates what’s left. So, given time, even if half-full, you will always be left with a glass completely empty. And what’s the optimist antithesis of empty? Exactly. Even to an optimist, empty is empty. At some point everyone has to admit that some circumstances just stink. No matter what.
And you know what? That’s alright. Because when you plant a garden, not everything that grows will be a rose. And isn’t that kind of what a lot of living is about—learning how to weed and prune and trim and make things what you want them to be? So adulthood might not be what I always dreamed and pretended it would be. But it won’t be determined by the DMV or bully cops or talk radio and certainly not by money hungry Mickey Mouse.